Oklahoma City – State Rep. Josh Cockroft, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Special Investigation Committee, released a statement on Friday (February 2).
In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, the Wanette Republican was reacting to Oklahoma Department of Health (OSDH) Chief Financial Officer Mike Romero’s resignation from the department on Thursday (February 1).
In his most recent statement Romero cited what he deemed conflicts of interest from OSDH leadership and tampering with witness testimony before a grand jury.
“Mike Romero made some very troubling allegations yesterday that have yet to be responded to by leadership from the Department of Health. The culture of employee intimidation and lack of transparency created by the previous administration seems to have been adopted and furthered by the current administration.
“Oklahomans were promised that change was coming to the Department of Health and that trust would be restored. The silence on these very serious allegations is very concerning to me. The Board of the Department of Health has the responsibility to ensure the agency, through its directors and officers, is meeting the expectations of the people of Oklahoma. The House Special Investigation Committee will continue our investigation, but I believe the Department of Health Board also needs to immediately address these serious accusations and take whatever action is necessary. ”
In an earlier statement (on Thursday), Cockroft reflected, “The committee would like to thank Mr. Romero for his dedication to our state, and for the integrity he has displayed while working with our Investigative Committee. His willingness to work with our efforts, and better our state has not gone unnoticed. We are disappointed in the situation that has caused Mr. Romero to resign, but wish him great success in his next step of life.
“We have been told that the culture of deceit by leadership at OSDH has been changed for the better. While we hope this is true, allegations like what Mr. Romero made today point to a much different reality.
“According to Mr. Romero, he responded in writing to an earlier memo from Denise Northrup in which he challenged several of her statements.” Northrup is presently running the Office of Management and Enterprise Services in the administration of Governor Mary Fallin.
Then, according to Cockroft’s summary of the former CFO’s words, “OSDH Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger came to his office and angrily voiced his displeasure with Mr. Romero for challenging Ms. Northrup’s memo. Having an interim commissioner lashing out in anger to an employee who was simply doing his job is concerning.
“It was then, according to Mr. Romero, that Doerflinger offered that Mr. Romero’s memo conflicted testimony another OSDH employee gave before the Attorney General’s grand jury, testimony which is supposed to be confidential. The possibility of agency leadership sharing confidential testimony from a grand jury proceeding is deeply troubling and unacceptable.”
Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka, formed the special investigation panel late last year, after the depth of the state Health Department scandal became clear. In establishing committee, McCall put Cockroft in charge of its work
NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.